Athletic Bilbao are gradually getting their season back on track, and they moved safely up to mid-table after beating neighbours Osasuna 3-1 in this week's Monday night game. It took them a bit of time to get going though, and Iraizoz had to pull off first class saves from Lamah and Nino before Muniain opened the scoring after a battling Llorente passed to him whilst lying on the floor. Before half time though the locals were three up, Gabilondo sweeping a shot past Andrés after Llorente's header came back off Roversio's arm, and Javi Martínez getting above his marker to head in Iraola's cross. Any chance Osasuna had of coming back ended when Lamah was sent off for a second bookable offence with twenty minutes to go, although they did get a late consolation from the penalty spot, Nekounam converting the kick after Javi Martínez handled in the area. (17.10.11)
Levante are surprising everyone this season, and they stay in joint first place with Barcelona after a 3-0 win over Málaga on Sunday evening. Barkero started things off early on after Juanfran's cross fell to him inside the area, his shot taking a deflection off Maresca to wrong-foot Will Caballero. And with just under half an hour gone, the visiting keeper was sent off for handling outside of the area, Juanlu getting ahead of replacement keeper Rubén to make it two after the resulting Barkero free kick came to him off the defensive wall. A few minutes later Demichelis had to clear from Valdo, and before the break Koné robbed Rubén's pocket book to score the third. Málaga's only reply up to then had been a couple of efforts from Cazorla and Gámez which Munúa kept out without too many problems, and after the restart Rubén Suárez and El Zhar could even have increased the scoreline. Seventeen points for Levante, two more than they picked up in all the first half of the season last year. This time they are here to stay!
Later in the evening Sevilla beat bottom club Sporting Gijón 2-1 to move up to fourth in the table. Manu del Moral headed an early chance over the bar before he cut in from the left to fire an impressive shot in to the top corner of the net on the quarter hour mark. Local keeper Javi Varas had to be on his toes to save from Trejo a few minutes later, and Barral put another chance over the top from close up. However twelve minutes in to the second half Cáceres made it two, heading in the rebound after Escudé headed a Rakitic free kick against the crossbar. Barral got one back soon afterwards after Trejo and Bilic combined to set him up, but after that Varas kept out efforts from André Castro and Botía to ensure the three points for his side.
Espanyol kicked off the Sunday games at mid-day with a 0-1 victory at Rayo Vallecano, their first win away from home since January. Cristian Alvarez had to keep out a speculative shot from Piti in the opening minutes, but after that the visitors dominated, Dani saving a couple of times from an active Sergio García and Didac having a good penalty appeal turned down. Rayo's best chance came early in the second half when Alvarez had to come out quickly to clear from ex Espanyol striker Tamudo, but soon afterwards Romaric got what was to prove the only goal after picking up a pass from Forlín. Romaric and Sergio García tested Dani again after that, but they had already done enough by then.
Espanyol move up to ninth, and Zaragoza are just behind them on goal difference after beating Real Sociedad 2-0. Hélder Postiga silenced his critics with his first two goals for his new side, the first a spectacular overhead kick from a long Juárez cross in the tenth minute. Paredes almost added another when he fired a shot against the foot of the post following a short free kick, and Roberto was in action later in the first half to keep out a deflected shot from Zurutuza. Three minutes after the restart though Postiga ran on to Ponzio's through ball to score his second of the afternoon, and although substitutes Griezmann and Mariga tried their luck after that, the visitors could not prevent a third defeat in a row. (16.10.11)
Barcelona hold on to top spot for another week at least after an easy 3-0 victory on Saturday evening over a Racing Santander side who have not won in the Nou Camp for 28 years. Guardiola's team had it wrapped up early on, Messi collecting Iniesta's pass before carving through the visiting defence to open the scoring in the eleventh minute, and Xavi heading a second midway through the first half from Pedro's cross. Racing's only reply was a speculative shot from youngster Koné, and Puyol, Villa and Messi all shot wide before Messi scored the third after Iniesta's shot came back off the post twenty minutes after the interval. Messi and Villa could have added to the lead after that, but with a Champions League game coming up midweek they called it a day. Barça are once more on song, and with an aggregate goal difference of 21-0 in their first four home games it seems that only Real Madrid can stand in the way of a fourth consecutive league title.
Real Madrid themselves stay a point behind Barcelona after they too clocked up a comfortable 4-1 win over Betis. The Andalusians held their own up to half time, with 17 year old Vadillo bringing a good save out of Casillas before being stretchered off with a serious knee injury, and Beñat and Rubén Castro going close. Özil, Ronaldo, Higuaín and Kaká all failed to beat Casto at the other end, but just a minute after the restart Higuaín picked up a pass from Ronaldo to put José Mourinho's side ahead. Kaká made it two soon afterwards from another Ronaldo assist, and although Jorge Molina got one back, Di María set up Higuaín to score two more to complete his second hat-trick in a row in the league, and his third in the last fortnight, including the one he scored for Argentina last week. Good news for Mourinho, who is now spoilt for choice for his attacking line up to play Lyon next Tuesday.
The other three games on Saturday evening ended all square, Valencia losing ground on the top two after a 1-1 draw at Mallorca. Piatti shot just wide early on and Chori Castro had a shot deflected just wide in reply, and with seven minutes to go to the break Rami turned the ball over the line from a yard out after Zuiverloon blocked a shot from Víctor Ruíz following a corner. Hemed headed over a couple of times after the restart, but the game appeared to be lost for Joaquín Caparrós's new side until the second minute of injury time, when a shot from Pau Cendrós hit Topal on the arm at point blank range. Referee Paradas Romero pointed to the spot, and Hemed stepped up to convert his third penalty in two games.
Getafe and Villarreal shared the points in a 0-0 draw, a result which leaves them both in the lower half of the table. It was a game of two halves, with the locals on top at first and the visitors coming back later on. Güiza failed to covert three good chances early on, and before half time Codina had to push wide a long effort from Marcos Senna. Diego Castro just failed to get on the end of Sarabia's free kick after the interval, but Rossi wasted two or three opportunities to win it for the visitors after that. He will have to do better next Tuesday against Manchester City if his team is to stay in the Champions League.
Later in the evening Granada and Atlético Madrid also drew 0-0, the fifth time this season that Gregorio Manzano's team have failed to score in a league match. The locals had the better of the early play though, Uche heading against the post and Mainz and Dani Benítez both missing the target. Gabi and Reyes came up against Roberto before the break as Atleti fought back, but soon after the restart Geijo had a strike ruled out for a close offside, and Uche selfishly tried to beat Courtois from a tight angle when he had a colleague better placed in front of goal. In the last few minutes substitute Adrián tested Roberto again a couple of times, but once more the goal machine had dried up. (16.10.11)